If you’re thinking about going blonde or lightening your already-blonde hair, you’ll need to get familiar with hair toners. Toners are a useful ally in your fight against brassiness - here’s how they work and what you should be asking your stylist for.
What is hair toner?
A hair toner is a gel-like product with a creamy consistency that helps you correct or personalise your colour. They’re often used by your stylist to add natural or more visible tones after highlights, balayage or babylights.
Toners enhance the depth and dimension of coloured hair by creating a professionally-finished, flattering look. Hair has to be pre-lightened or coloured for toners to have an effect, and they’re mainly used on blondes – but toners can be beneficial for brunettes and redheads as well.
The professional toners used by your stylist tend to be more richly pigmented than toning shampoos used at home – however, purple shampoo (for blondes) and blue shampoo (for brunettes) are ideal to maintain a bright, ashy or cool colour in between salon visits.
Tinted shampoos and conditioners, semi-permanent hair colours, hair glazes and glosses can all be considered hair toners because they contain ingredients that adjust the colour of your hair. You can even apply hair toner to targeted areas, such as highlights or roots, to adjust the shade.
How does hair toner work?
Unless your hair is super-light natural blonde, it’ll contain some shades of red and orange pigment. When you bleach your hair, the chemicals in the lightening solution have to work their way through all of these reddy, browny pigments to lift them away. Depending on the strength of the bleach you use and the length of time you apply it for, your hair may still have unflattering brassy undertones after you rinse, wash and condition your hair. That’s where hair toner comes in.
Hair toner changes your hair’s brassy undertones, lifting your colour and adding ashy, beigey colours. It doesn’t completely alter your hair colour, but it helps you subtly manipulate the shade of brassy hair. Hair toners neutralise unwanted warm or brassy tones to help you achieve a shinier, healthier, more natural-looking shade.
What are the different types of hair toner?
There are three different types of hair toner used by salons, and by people at home.
When to use hair toner
You can use hair toner at any point during your colouring cycle - but we’d recommend you use it every time you bleach your hair, as you’ll need a toner to neutralise unwanted undertones. Salon-style toners last around three to four weeks before a refresh is needed.
How to use hair toner at home
Once you’ve got your ideal hair toner, gloss or glaze, here’s how to apply it at home.
How long does a toner last after your salon visit?
There’s no right or wrong answer to how long professional toner lasts - hair that has been coloured previously can sometimes hold toners for less time than hair that has only been coloured once, so previously-coloured hair may need more regular toning.
On average, we’d expect salon-style toners to last for 2-3 weeks, and at-home toners to last for 1-2 weeks.
How to make your hair toner last longer
There are several steps you can take to stop your hair colour from fading.